The ceramic garden chair and other pieces of furniture that are popular among Americans with arthritis have long been regarded as an elegant alternative to a rigid medical chair.
But new research suggests that’s not always the case.
The American Society of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says ceramic garden chairs are one of the best options for arthritis patients.
They offer a “natural balance of comfort, functionality and style,” said Dr. Scott Wierzwiel, chief of the group’s arthritic medicine division.
In a recent study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, Wiers team at the National Institute of Arthritic Diseases found that those with chronic arthritis who used ceramic garden benches reported feeling better overall than those who didn’t use the chairs.
“There’s no question that they are a really comfortable chair to use, even if they don’t have the strength or flexibility of a standard chair,” Wierzes co-author Dr. Brian Hulley told ABC News.
“They’re also a lot lighter, and there’s no doubt that they’re much more efficient.”
But there’s one problem with the chair: They can cause back pain.
And a study published last year in the British Medical Journal found that many ceramic gardeners suffer back pain as a result.
In fact, the American Arthritis Society found that among its members with arthritis, more than half reported back pain and half reported some degree of arthritis in one or both legs.
And even among those who were able to get back to their regular activities, many were bothered by back pain when sitting on their ceramic garden.
A 2013 report from the American College of Arthroscopy found that more than 20 percent of people who had osteoarthritis of the knee had arthritis of the back and more than 30 percent of those with a back pain also reported back discomfort.
And the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons noted that, among its more than 200,000 members, the association had reported more than 300 cases of back pain among gardeners.
As for whether the chair is the best option for arthritis sufferers, the answer is a resounding yes.
In one study, researchers found that ceramic garden users reported significantly lower pain levels and less stiffness than those using a rigid chair.
And when researchers asked participants to complete a questionnaire that gauged their level of arthritis, those who used the chair reported significantly less pain and stiffness than gardeners using a traditional chair.
“We were surprised by the fact that these are actually similar to those in the real world, that these chairs are not as stiff and rigid as they are in the literature,” Dr. Richard DeBruyn, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, told ABCNews.
“There is no way around it.”
In the meantime, many gardeners say they have no qualms about using the chairs and are not worried about back pain or stiffness.
“I don’t think anybody’s worried about that,” Wiers said.
“The only thing I’m worried about is having my back hurt and that’s what we have to worry about.”
The American Arthoretical Society says that the use of a ceramic garden and chair can help alleviate back pain for people with osteoarthropathy, which is the inflammation of the bones and joints caused by arthritis.
But the society also says that people with other joint conditions may benefit from using a more traditional chair or a cane instead of a garden chair.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the American Association of Arterologists.